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Losing weight in the new year: Resolve to take care of yourself.

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Losing weight in the new year: Resolve to take care of yourself

By ERIN ANDERSEN / Lincoln Journal Star | Posted: Saturday, January 7, 2012 10:00 pm

If losing weight was your New Year’s resolution, you are in good company.

Nearly half of all Americans who made resolutions resolved to drop pounds in 2012. Another 12 percent vowed to exercise more.

Unfortunately, most of us will give up on our promises to ourselves. In fact, many of us probably already have.

Julia Kappenman has some advice for all of us: “It is never too late.”

Kappenman lost 110 pounds, going from a size 24 to a size 12.

One year ago, Mary Baker weighed 300 pounds “right on the nose.” Her husband, Bob, weighed 268 pounds. Today, Mary weighs 180 pounds. Bob weighs 208.

Kris Gemar ended 2011 75 pounds lighter than when it started.

All are confident the weight is gone for good. Because while they were part of different weight loss programs, they didn’t “diet.” They changed their lifestyles to include more exercise and better nutrition.

And unlike previous endeavors, this time the weight loss was not about being a certain size or fitting into a certain outfit. It wasn’t about looking good for an upcoming wedding or class reunion.

This time, it was about life — choosing to live healthier, happier and hopefully longer.

The four Lincolnites are sharing their stories in hopes that it will inspire, motivate and prove that not only can it be done, but that each and everyone of us deserve to be healthy.

We are all worth it.

Mary and Bob Baker: Losing weight for the health of it

“I hated myself,” Mary Baker states matter of factly.

At 300 pounds, she was morbidly obese — so overweight that it was affecting her health and shortening her life.

She wore a size 28W — the equivalent of a men’s 4X.

“I physically labored to do anything,” she said.

She struggled to bend over and tie her shoes or put on socks. She couldn’t climb the stairs to seats at sporting events — or fit in the seats when she got there.

All were concessions she apparently was willing to live with.

Then last January, Mary and Bob boarded a Las Vegas-bound plane.

“I could not get the seat belt around me,” she recalled. “I needed an extender, but I didn’t ask for one.”

Instead she just made it look like she was buckled in.

That whole flight, Bob and Mary held their arms tight to their chest to avoid spilling over into the seat next to them or the aisle.

“It was miserable,” Bob says.

And it was the last straw.

“You either want to live that way and be miserable, or do something about it,” Mary said.

“I couldn’t live like that anymore,” Mary said.

The day after they returned to Lincoln, Bob and Mary attended their first Life Tracks class at LifePointe by BryanLGH Medical Center. The 20-week weight-loss program is based on lifestyle changes rather than diet. At the end of 20 weeks, Bob was at his goal, while Mary was down 50 pounds. Both opted to stick with the program. Mary lost another 70 pounds over six months.

This was not the first time Mary has lost significant weight. She had lost 50, 75 and even 100 pounds on diets before, only to gain the back the weight, plus more.

But this time it is different, Mary said.

“I don’t want to be that girl anymore.”

That girl who attended her first Weight Watchers meeting at age 12. That confident business woman who smiled on the outside but loathed herself on the inside. That woman who physically struggled to get out of bed in the morning because of her size. That woman who got winded after climbing a few stairs. That woman who had a cholesterol level of 267 and a body mass index of 47.5, a number considered “super obese.”

“I got off that plane and said, ‘OK, this is it.’

“You have to change up here,” she said pointing to her head. “You have to undertake the journey to change your lifestyle.”

For Bob, the wakeup call should have come in 2005 when doctors placed stents in his arteries. Genetics make him high risk for heart disease. Bob lost weight doing rehab after the stent surgery, but then rehab stopped and so did Bob.

This time, the couple of 30 years is determined to stick with it for the rest of their lives.

“It is a journey,” Mary said. “And you’re not going to do it until you are ready to do it.”

Added Bob, ” You have got to commit. If you’re looking for a quick fix, you are not going to do it.”

After that, it gets easier.

“Once I started losing weight, I felt better. And I felt better about myself,” Bob said. “I got my self-esteem back.”

In the beginning, Mary set 10-pound weight loss goals. It was far more manageable. With each 10 pounds lost, she became more inspired and more energized.

Her first day at LifePointe, she could barely climb the stairs for a facility tour. After 30 seconds on the elliptical machine, she got off and announced she “couldn’t do it.”

She persevered.

This past week, her exercise took those same stairs — up and down 22 times. And it felt good, Mary said.

Now she averages two hours a day at LifePointe, taking classes and working out. She’s at the fitness center by 6 a.m.

A year ago, she never would have imagined getting up that early, working out that long or looking forward to it.

“I am doing things I could never have done before,” Mary said. Like squatting, lifting, tying shoes, getting dressed.

It’s tough, but with the right mindset it gets easier, she said.

And it is mind over matter: Knowing what constitutes a portion size. Understanding how much exercise it will take to burn off that 100-calorie beer or a bag of Twizzlers licorice. Recognizing that is OK to indulge occasionally, but that it better be worth it. Looking at restaurant menus online and having a game plan in place before you walk out the door. And no longer making food your primary source of entertainment.

“To succeed, you have to be really selfish. And it is awkward,” Mary said. “But you have to get yourself at the top of your priority list and keep yourself there.”

Added Bob: “We’ve got to take care ourselves.”

Kris Gemar: Mom moves herself to front lines of her family

Kris Gemar knew full well she had gained weight over the years — quite a bit of weight.

She attributed it to a stressful job. When she quit the job to be a full-time mother, the stress continued. The stress affected her sleep, which in turn affected her appetite. The more she gained, the less energy she had. Walking the dog was her primary form of exercise. When the dog’s health failed, the exercise ended.

“A lot of things fell off the priority list,” Gemar admitted.

But then her health took a hit. She had trouble walking. Her husband teasingly called her Igor. The doctors said hip replacement surgery was in her very near future. She was only in her mid-40s.

While walking the golf course to watch her high school son compete, her life took an about face.

“I was at the ninth hole and I was exhausted. I knew something had to change,” Gemar said.

A blood test — a metabolic profile — indicated Gemar was in trouble. Her cholesterol was high, as was her blood pressure. Doctors said she had two choices: clean up her diet or take medication.

“I have heart disease in my family. And I was just around the corner of menopause. It was time to make a change in my life.”

With the support of her family, she enrolled in LifeTracks, a 20-week program offered by LifePointe by BryanLGH.

“When I started, I said if I lose 40 to 45 pounds it would help me feel better,” she said. “The weight came off. And I continued to exercise.”

Now, just less than a year since enrolling, Gemar is 75 pounds lighter. The latest blood tests show her cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure at healthy levels.

“It took away my risk factors,” Gemar said.

She feels better. She sleeps better. She has more energy and more stamina.

“I don’t dread getting up every day,” Gemar said.

And that hip replacement has been delayed, perhaps many years into the future.

But the biggest change both she and her family have noticed?

“I am happier. I am a happier version of myself.”

Like many other women with excess pounds, Gemar had tried other diets before, managing to shed pounds for big lifetime events like weddings and reunions.

“This time there was no big event,” Gemar said. “It was something I needed to do for myself.”

Her goal was a healthy BMI for her height. She eased into exercising, beginning with a water-toning class and moving up to cardio lifting and spinning.

Exercise increased her metabolism and made the weight come off faster. It also improved her muscle tone, flexibility and stability.

“I’ve noticed the little things — like I can reach in the back of the dryer without so much effort. That was an aha moment,” she said.

This summer she held a garage sale and got rid of all her “big clothes.”

Shopping is fun now.

“I used to shop plus sizes,” she said. “Now I don’t do that. It’s nice to buy clothes that don’t have an X on them anymore.”

This past December, she joined the rest of her family on the Southwest High School’s band trip to Hawaii.

“I put on a swimsuit and didn’t feel like I had to hide. I went kayaking in the ocean. … It is much easier to keep up when you have stamina and endurance,” she said.

The old Kris Gemar was a “sideline sitter, rather than an active participant.”

“Now I’m not afraid to get in there and do the activities,” she said. “Before the weight loss I took the family pictures. Now I’m part of the family. Now I am in the pictures.”

“You have to have the right mentality to be successful,” she said.

You have to learn to eat out. How to eat on plan. How to be prepared for hunger. How to avoid the BLTs — bites, licks and tastes — which can add up to 400 to 500 calories a day. How to exercise and stick with it. How to advocate for yourself.

“I didn’t do this for a reunion, but I’ve done that. I didn’t do this for a wedding, but I’ve done that, too. I needed to make it happen, no arguments,” she said.

People — mothers especially — take care of everyone but themselves, she said.

“We need to change our wiring. I’m not being selfish, I am a better version of me,” Gemar said. “It’s about self love and self-esteem.”

“Before I was grumpy and frumpy. I didn’t have a happier outlook. … Now I really like the way I feel, and I never want to go back.”

 Julia Kappenman: Discovering the person she never knew

Julia Kappenman never believed her weight affected who she was. She thought she was happy. She thought she was self-confident despite being “grossly obese” for the last 25 years of her life.

“I always believed I thought positively about myself. I always had good ideas and was very active,” she said. “Now I look back and I realize I was a person in pain …

“My body always hurt after an eight-hour work day. After sitting down for even 15 minutes, I could hardly walk, I was so sore. I had to stop and rest. My cholesterol was out of control.”

An artist, she never had the energy to pursue her passion.

In 2007, she got married.

“And as so many happy couples do, we gained weight.”

They accepted it as the price of growing older, and as long as they had each other, it didn’t matter.

But in 2009, while selecting a photograph for their annual Christmas gift to their parents, reality stared them in the face.

“We’ve got to lose this weight,” they told each other.

They were able to put those words into action when their boss at Allstate/Lincoln Benefit Life invited them to join a new at work Weight Watchers program and they accepted.

Kappenman had tried Weight Watchers before.

“But after I had lost 35 pounds, I quit, thinking I could do it alone,” she recalled.

It was the same thinking that had guided her for years.

“I was relatively thin until I went to college … got the 20-year spread …”

Destiny. The weight continued.

“I went from a size 12 to a size 20 in five years. I’d think, wow this is terrible. Then I would get two sizes down, gain back a little, and go from a 22 and 24 to 18, and then gain it back again.”

She eventually recognized her self-destructive pattern.

“I’d lose weight and get satisfied. It was great, and then I would go back to the old lifestyle and gain it plus all over again,” Kappenman said.

“I needed to change my lifestyle if I wanted success.”

The reality is, we are not always ready to make that change.

“I wasn’t. But then I was,” Kappenman said.

“It’s never too late to start. You just have to start.”

It’s her motto for everything now.

Weight Watchers armed her with the knowledge to take control of her caloric and fat intake. It taught her about portion sizes. It taught her how to satisfy the cravings. It taught her to shift food from the main focus of events and gatherings. She learned to celebrate without food — as well as with food. It was as much about education as it was about support. Support is crucial, she said. Not just from the group, but from your families and friends. Tell everyone your goal, she said.

“And ask them to help you with pats on the back.”

Kappenman said she didn’t have to exercise.

“It’s harder to lose weight if you don’t,” she said. “Exercise makes it faster.”

While she does eat a lot of fruit and veggies, she can count the number of salads she’s eaten on one hand.

“Salads make me feel like a diet,” Kappenman said.

And diet is not what she did.

“The D word is something nobody wants in life,” Kappenman said. “I call it a ‘nutritional program,’ and how I gained nutrition.”

She exercises because healthy living is not just about weight loss.

“You need to build muscle.”

With muscle comes energy.

“I have so much more energy,” she said. “I am crossing so many things off my (to-do) list. I am physically capable of doing that.”

The woman who hurt after 15 minutes in a chair now enjoys kickboxing. After an eight-hour day at work, she still has the energy to do things. This fall, she took the plunge to fulfill her dream. She asked for and was granted an art studio in the Burkholder Project.

She’s lost 110 pounds in 18 months. Her husband lost 65 pounds.

She’s 12 pounds from her goal. Weight Watchers recently named her one of its 100 most inspiring stories for 2011.

“I feel so much better about myself as a person, not because I look better, but because I am physically capable,” she said.

“I really like living, and I want to be an old person. I am not afraid of wrinkles and gray hair. But I want to be a healthy old person,” Kappenman said.

She realizes now that the journey was not just about losing weight or getting healthier.

“It was about finding balance,” she said. “Balancing my body helped to complete the balance of mind and spirit.”

She will be the first to tell you that she’s not perfect. She’s fallen off the wagon more than once.

It happens.

“Then I saw the wagon and climbed back on,” Kappenman said. “It’s hard, and you think it is too late. But once you realize it is never too late and that you are capable, you find yourself capable of so many more things.”

Reach Erin Andersen at 402-473-7217 or eandersen@journalstar.com.

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